An arrest warrant has been issued for a Roman Catholic priest who is now a fugitive and accused of molesting boys from 1978 to 1985.
Sigfried Widera, 61, who once served in Orange County, is charged with 33 felony counts of child molestation. He has been missing since May and faces similar sexual abuse charges in Wisconsin where he also once lived.
Authorities said the Orange County molestations took place when Widera was a priest at St. Justin Martyr Church in Anaheim and St. Martin de Porres Church in Yorba Linda.
Police don’t know where Widera is, but his last known address was in Tucson, Ariz. If he is found, authorities said they would seek bail of $1 million.
Widera was moved from Milwaukee to Orange County in 1976 even though he had been convicted of child molestation three years prior.
The Diocese of Orange said it was not aware of the conviction when it hired Widera. However, the Milwaukee archdiocese said it did inform Orange County church officials about Widera’s past problems.
He was removed from the ministry in 1985 after allegations of sexual abuse surfaced. Widera was later sent to a New Mexico treatment center for eight months but remains a priest despite the accusations against him.
Widera is the second priest in the 31-year history of the Orange diocese to face multiple felony molestation charges. In 1986, Andrew Christian Anderson was convicted on 26 counts of sexual abuse while a priest at St. Bonaventure Church in Huntington Beach. He received a suspended six-year prison sentence and was placed on five years’ probation.